Background: The informant is a 59 year old woman. She was born in Pampanga, Philippines and moved to Los Angeles when she was 29-years-old. The informant still frequently speaks to her family and occasionally visits her family in the Philippines. The informant grew up as Catholic in the Philippines, converting to evangelical Christianity during her time in Los Angeles. She was exposed to the tradition when living in the Philippines.
Context: The context was that, it was Good Friday, and the informant was reminded of her traditions, and how they differ from America.
EM: For Good Friday, do you know what they did to Jesus when they, how do you call it, you know they hit Jesus on the back, how do you call it?
Me: “Um, whipping?”
EM: “Whip them? Whip Jesus right? … So in my country on Good Friday, it’s like penitence, they call it penitence, I don’t know what the word penitence means. In Tagalog, we call it penitencia, it’s like, like hitting themselves to suffer, thinking that God will forgive them of their sins so what they do is on Good Friday, they [men] go and they cover, you know, they act like they’re Jesus that they, uh, someone will cut the back of their their back with uh, how do you– laser, is that a laser, or like a blade, they cut their skin on their back and then they have this little, like a whip, like a made up whip, made of bamboo, like little tiny bamboo, and they hit themselves, like hitting their, um–”
Me: “So basically they create like this blade or like some tool made out of bamboo and then they whip themselves?”
EM: “Yes and you can, it’s gruesome because you see blood all over their back. One of my brother did that.”
Informant: Though a portion of her religious tradition, the information found the process to be very gory and gruesome. Her tone was very uncomfortable and she didn’t seem to enjoy speaking on it.
Mine: Penitence is the act of wishing to repent for one’s action, which may result in self-flagellation, also called self-penance, which is the action of whipping or beating oneself in order to repent. By committing the action on Good Friday, it parallels how Jesus was crucified, by both being extremely bloody and gruesome. Though the men are whipping themselves to repent, given the holiday, it also seems that they are trying to inflict pain on themself in order to take the pain away from Jesus, though he lived a long time ago. It seems to state that since Jesus suffered on Good Friday, everyone should have to suffer alongside him. In this bloody way, a covenant is formed with Jesus, that they will be together. Also, it forms a strong bond with the other men who are committing self-flagellation because they are all suffering and going through a harrowing experience at the same time. The informant’s description of it as gruesome reflects that one doesn’t have to enjoy every single aspect of their culture. There is not a homogenous brain in everyone, rather people are able to make decisions on what they like or dislike based on their own preferences.
To see another version, Tiatco, A. P. & Bonifacio-Ramolete, A. (2008). Cutud’s Ritual of Nailing on the Cross: Performance of Pain and Suffering. 58–76.